Real Conversations

The past couple of weeks have been wonderful. I’ve had some truly amazing and rich conversations on a myriad of topics with a diverse group of folks. All of these referenced conversations have been substantive in nature, and caused me to pause, reflect, ponder, wonder, and leave feeling better about both my past and future.

Note that I did not always agree with the other party in these conversations, but I felt incredibly comfortable with the process of dialogue and exchange. I have learned to say some new qualifiers, like “I am not saying you are wrong or that I am right… merely, that at this point in my life, this is what I think/believe.” I have also come to appreciate that not everyone has to agree with me, or be at the same point of learning as I am. That would be an incredibly foolish expectation. I have also dramatically shifted my focus over the years in these wonderful debates from “trying to convince you what is wrong with your argument” to “searching for ways to make my own arguments clearer.”

I started doing much of these many years ago as I progressed through the ranks of being a professional management consultant, but only recently have I noted that they seem to come more natural than ever before for me. The rewarding part of these discussions has been that the relationships seem to have progressed and become richer.  The measure of this is when both sides reconnect a day or so later and acknowledge the conversation as rewarding, and an implicit desire to want to have the next one.

It occurred to me that it took me way too long to learn all this. For something that I do over 100 times each day, how is it that I and so many others still are not good at having those substantive and meaningful conversations that facilitate true thinking and growth. I took inventory of what I have been relying on to get me to think and grow – I’ll read a book, a blog, watch an inspiring video, listen to a speaker, etc. As this list has grown over the years, and in a good way, the number of “real” conversations seems to have declined.

This week, I invite you to think about who it is that you enjoy having these kinds of conversations with in your life. And how often you have them. Give them a call, go have lunch with them, and explore some contentious topics knowing quite well that you will still be great friends afterwards.

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